Sandbox Fighting

The Washington City Paper’s Ryan Grim thinks that Gloria Borland’s recent letter to the editor of the Washington City Paper, which was written in response to Grim’s 6/16 piece “A Line in the Sandbox” (FishbowlDC published an extended version of her letter here), is chock full of misstatements and he writes in to FishbowlDC to defend his piece.

    Gloria Borland calls me a liar several times in response to an article I wrote for the Washington City Paper. Her claims were published on this website without being fact-checked, as well as several other blogs and Listservs. The article she refers to is 100% accurate. Only two of the “lies” she points to can be checked; the rest is her opinion, which can be left to the reader. Here are the two accusations that make factual claims.

More when you click below…

    Borland writes: Lie # 1. Grim lied when he said I joined Dr. Dan Putterman in 2003 to try to “take over” Ross Elementary. In fact, my infant and I spent most of 2003 working thousands of miles away in the Pacific, creating a new television series for PBS. I never attended, nor did I have any involvement with the Ross meetings and activities that took place in 2003 that Grim described. I did not meet Putterman and his family until 2004.”

    Nowhere in the article do I report that Borland met Putterman in 2003.

    Here is the first time Borland appears:

    In the early days of Ross’ reinvention, Putterman had an ally for his crusade. At 2:05 a.m. on a spring night in 2004, Dupont Circle resident Gloria Borland, a top adviser to Ross Perot during his 1992 run, set up a Yahoo! group called Dupont Circle Parents and sent a test message at 2:28. By the time Putterman signed up 10 hours later, a dozen parents had already joined. Within days, the Listserv was popping with more than 50 parents, most of them with children no more than 3 years old, anxious about the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) system but with an open mind toward it.

    Borland then writes: “Lie # 2. Grim lied when he said Dupont Circle Parents (DCP) was started in spring 2004 for the sole purpose of taking control of Ross Elementary.”

    I did not report that. What I actually reported comes in the paragraphs immediately following the one above:

    These parents were looking for a way to avoid the cost of private school–an expense that, even for kindergarten, can run as much as tuition at a typical private university. But they were also imbued with the blue-tinted sensibilities of Dupont residents, and their belief in public schooling verges on the ideological. The liberal guilt that already afflicts these gentrifiers is compounded by sending little Fletcher off to private school.

    Shortly after Putterman’s open house, the parent group began conferring about Ross. From the outside, it seemed to defy the stereotype of the crumbling, chaotic District school. The improving picture at Ross was partly due to an unintended positive consequence of gentrification: Class sizes were tumbling. Smith says she lost 24 students in one shot a few years ago when a nearby building converted to condos. That’s a powerful hit in a cschool where each grade has only one class. The school had more to offer, though, than just a low student–teacher ratio. In cooperation with the Washington Post about 100 volunteers came by once a week to read with students–one of several programs that took advantage of the school’s resource-rich surroundings.

    But as a small public school in an American colony, Ross had its share of problems. The library and cafeteria were old and cramped. The playground was a metallic danger zone that doubled as a parking lot and resulted in regular cuts and scrapes for the kids. There was no physical-education teacher, foreign-language program, or math or science specialist. There was insufficient afterschool care.

    None of those problems, though, seemed like anything a determined group of educated and active parents couldn’t take care of. Smith says she introduced Putterman around and placed him on a number of committees to bring him and his group into the community of parents active within Ross. “He was so proud of the school,” says Smith.

    Borland also asserts that I purposely left her comments out of the article. “I was disappointed Grim and his editor failed to include my point, but I guess if the Washington City Paper had printed my quote, it would have ruined your tabloid’s scheme of trying to turn this into a nasty personality fight,” she writes.

    She knows better. Borland initially refused to go on the record for the article and then did not return repeated phone calls until 7:30 on the Wednesday night before we went to press. I included as many of her comments as I could under the circumstances.

    Large parts of her letter and other postings are directed against the school itself, which she asserts is using a below-grade-level curriculum. That assertion, which has been ably refuted elsewhere, should be taken with as much salt as her claims above.